Cal women’s soccer eyes retribution against Santa Clara after defeating Utah Valley in season opener

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Soccer fans couldn’t have asked for a better day for a soccer game, and Cal women’s soccer couldn’t have asked for a better result. The Bears kicked off the Cal Athletics season commandingly this Friday, topping Utah Valley 3-0 at sunny Edwards Stadium — an optimistic sign of things to come.

It hardly took until halftime for it to become certain that Cal would come out on top. In just the 11th minute of play, junior forward Abi Kim tallied the Bears’ first goal of 2018, with an assist from sophomore midfielder Luca Deza. Before anyone could blink, sophomore midfielder Caroline Clark converted on a solo shot to put the Bears up 2-0.

Finally, in the 41st minute, redshirt sophomore forward Jordyn Elliott sealed the deal on a goal assisted by freshman forward Renee Thomas, who entered her first collegiate game just a minute earlier.

The second half highlighted the Bears’ defensive finesse, as the Wolverines took six shots but could not find the back of the net once. Freshman goalie Olivia Sekany, who redshirted last season, took home a shutout in her first collegiate appearance.

“Well, our players were very excited about the opportunity to be the first Cal team to perform this year, and obviously it’s great to get to a winning start,” said head coach Neil McGuire. “Our first-half performance I thought was very good; our second-half performance was somewhat erratic. We were a little bit nervous, and I’m not sure we performed as well as we could. However, it is nice to come away with a victory.”

The Bears won’t have much time to celebrate that victory, however, as a quick turnaround sends them down to Santa Clara on Monday for an early-season rivalry matchup and their first road game of 2018. Retribution will be on the mind for Cal’s returners, who lost narrowly to Santa Clara in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Broncos were the only team to which the Bears gave up two goals in a game during the entirety of last season.

“You know every time you play Santa Clara, you know you’re coming up against a first-class team, very well coached by Coach Smith,” McGuire said. “And obviously our history of our games go many, many years back. They’re always tight matches, whether it be regular season or NCAA Tournament. So we’re looking forward to the match; we know it’s going to be a great one.”

The Broncos come into Monday’s game touting power on both sides of the ball. In their first match of the season against San Jose State, Santa Clara took a whopping 21 shots and did not require a single save. Junior forward Maddy Gonzalez scored both Bronco goals in that game and was second on the team in scoring last year. Her explosive style of play is sure to pose a challenge for the Cal defense.

It may be early in the season, but given the energy and cohesiveness of both teams, Monday’s match is sure to feel reminiscent of November soccer.

Adriana Ghiozzi covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].